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The Albino Rhino is no more: Earls rebrands beer after human-rights complaint

The Albino Rhino – iconic ale of Earls restaurant fame – is now officially extinct.

The rhyme was catchy. But according to a B.C. woman with albinism, it was discriminatory, reports.

Ikponwosa Ero, who was born in Nigeria, filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal last year, saying the marketing of Earls' Albino line capitalized on the notion of albinism as an oddity.

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Earls has announced it will drop its 25-year-old Albino Rhino brand (a reference to the endangered white rhinoceros) and replace it simply with Rhino.

"I'm happy for Earls," Ero said. "I think they eventually did the responsible thing and have created a good example."

After all, she asked a Vancouver Sun reporter, would a restaurant offer "an Alzheimer's appetizer or a Down syndrome daiquiri?"

Albinism affects one in 18,000 North Americans, but in some regions of Africa, it affects up to one in 1,500 people. Many people with albinism are legally blind.

In Africa, people with the genetic condition are targets of attack because of folk rituals associating consumption of the limbs of albinos with prosperity. More than 100 albinos in Tanzania were attacked between 2006 and June of last year – of which 71 died, NPR reports.

Ero says it was "undignifying" of Earls "to take a medical condition that basically almost defines peoples' lives and use it to sell food products."

The Albino Rhino joins a growing list of alcoholic beverages whose names have been deemed too offensive for public consumption.

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In Ontario, the Torontoist points out, regulators have banned Smash Bomb Atomic IPA (for sounding too smashed), Belgium's Delirium Tremens pale ale (for poking fun at alcohol withdrawal) and Dan Aykroyd's Crystal Head Vodka (deemed offensive to customers who have lost loved ones in alcohol-related deaths).

So much for edgy marketing.

A statement on the Earls website indicates the chain does not share Ero's point of view. "We do not believe the use of the word 'albino' reflects any intention to discriminate against persons with albinism," it says. Nevertheless, Earls menus will reflect the name change by April 24.

But Ero said that anyone thinking the Albino Rhino case is an example of political correctness run amok should talk to someone born with the condition. Albinos, she says, are even asked if they are vampires or have superpowers.

"Most people have learned about [albinism] from pop culture," she said. "It's grossly exaggerated and grossly wrong."

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More


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